There is always time to learn something new. There is also plenty of time to pursue a passion. We saw this lesson being demonstrated right before Spring Break. Mr. Kirk Hedding, a firefighter (and his wife, a school teacher) take time out of their busy schedules to pursue their passion and teach others something that most people enjoy but probably not think much about. The Kindergartners traveled to Chelsea, Michigan to H & H Sugarbush Farm that, from the highway, just looks like a lovely and spacious home on a vast piece of property. Inside the grounds, however, is some extra sweetness in the form of a generous spirit and the making of maple syrup. Mr. Kirk explained that he and his wife decided to tap the many maple trees on their family's property just like his wife's family did beginning over a hundred years ago.
He began our tour by first showing us a room where he had been busily stoking a fire in a little wood burning stove just before our arrival. He walked us through a vast number of shiny machines, instruments and containers used for extracting the water from the sap, measuring and maintaining ideal temperatures and cooking down the liquid gold.
We then ventured across a muddy cornfield to a beautiful wooded area where the maple magic originates.
View of the beautiful home and sugar shack processing station.
We stopped at one tree in particular to examine the sturdy bucket used to catch the sap as it dripped from a spile in the tree. Kirk explained that these metal "straws" do not damage the trees even though they leave evidence of scars just like skin would if poked.
He also explained that maple trees yield only a little bit of sap at this time of year due to increasingly warmer temperatures. Freezing and warm temperatures are necessary for sap flow. We discovered that it actually takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup!
The Kindergartners were amused by the fact that one of the great deterrents to effective sap collection are pesky squirrels that chew the tubing that the sap travels through.
A few friends gathered to admire a tiny maple tree that could be possibly be around yet another hundred years from now.
Back at the sugar shack, Mr. Kirk explained to us the many innovations that have occurred over the years to make sap collection more effective. Sap levels are easier to spot from a distance in plastic bags and they can keep out bugs and other debris. Kirk stated that he is so used to the layout of the family's grove of trees, he can walk the grounds to check on things even in darkness.
We were able to play a game about various types of seeds and the trees they produce and found out that Michigan is one of the leading states in maple sugar production.
One of the highlights of our trip was finding out how to make maple candy and being able to sample H& H's delicious maple products.
Mr. Hedding holds up a bottle of 100 year old syrup purchased by the founder!
Thanks to generosity of Kirk Hedding and his family our trip was interesting, informative and sweet! We chatted about our experience for days. We are also discovering how maple syrup production fits right in to our theme unit of "Sustainability"!
And, of course we had their delicious syrup on pancakes for snack the next day!
A special THANK YOU to Jackson's family for suggesting the outing and for providing the pancakes!